Tag Archives: Forensic Evidence

Fetal microchimerism as a (new?) form of forensic evidence – could my scientific idea solve the Tegan Lane mystery?

So, here’s my understanding of the bare bones of the situation; young mother is sent to jail for the best part of her life after one of her offspring, a daughter reportedly born and conceived during an “affair”, cannot be found by child welfare dept. Mother claims she gave newborn to the baby’s biological father to raise in an informal arrangement, but is no longer in contact with him. Police reportedly searched high and low for baby and custodial father, unsuccessfully, and charged the mother with murder, despite no body or forensic evidence of foul play. The very existence of the custodial father is disputed by some, and it is unclear how these people believe the female child was conceived. Maybe they are very religious, or maybe they have assumed that the biological father was this woman’s regular partner, with whom she did not wish to raise a child. The man in the affair, if he exists, could be living in any part of the world.

Finding the “missing” daughter alive should be a “get out of jail” card for the mother, but perhaps proving her identity to the satisfaction of relevant authorities might not be a simple matter. Finding the custodial or biological father of the “missing” child could solve the mystery of what happened to the child, and would also lend some credibility to the mother’s account of what happened to the child. An obvious potential type of tool to solve this mystery would be genealogical DNA sharing databases, as have been used to investigate crimes such as the repulsive Golden State Killer. I’m not sure whether police powers would be required to complete this kind of investigation in this case, and I’m also not sure whether the jailed mother has or even could practically or legally pursue this line of investigation using her own DNA, from within the confines of jail.

It appears that there is no record of the DNA of the missing daughter (who would now be a young adult if still alive) as the Guthrie Test was never done on her as a newborn (a battery of genetic tests on a blood sample to detect rare disorders treatable in infancy), but I think there is a better than even chance that the mother still is in posession of some of that child’s DNA, and also DNA of that child’s father. How? Where? Inside her body, through fetomaternal microchimerism  also possibly through male microchimerism. To complicate matters, the mother has also had a number of pregnancies and partners, so she will have quite a library of other people’s DNA chugging around in her veins and living within her organs, potentially even within her brain (as is that case in any well-lived woman’s life), but I believe that searching for that particular child’s DNA inside the body of the jailed biological mother could possibly by done by a process of elimination, in a laboratory. I guess whatever DNA content in the child’s genome is not identical with the mother’s DNA must be the natural, custodial father’s DNA. Not all of his DNA will be present, but perhaps enough DNA to use to find him or his relatives on a DNA sharing database. There you go!

P.S. Do blood banks and tissue or organ donation organisations need to review their privacy policies to acknowedge the fact that various facts can be deduced about a woman’s (and maybe a man’s) sexual, reproductive and family history from microchimerism testing of their blood or tissues?

Note – This page and all pages at this blog are permanently archived, and if you choose to copy my words or plagiarize any of my ideas, if I was the first to publish that idea or ideas, I will find out and I will make you sorry.

Links to more info

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Microchimerism&oldid=881842128

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2887685/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3458919/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633676/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921195/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4199806/

 

Part 2 of eyewitness episode on Insight

Part 2, which might include stuff about super-recognition, can only be viewed through an online account.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/article/2018/04/04/are-you-super-recogniser

 

Test and super-recognizer stuff at website of SBS TV show Insight

I’m not 100% sure why these items are at the Insight website as it does not appear that the topic of supers was covered in the last episode, but possibly the theme of crime eyewitnesses will be continued in a second part tomorrow. Might be worth a look at the show and the website too if you’re interested in superrecognition, face memory and forensic eyewitness evidence. I’m glad that Insight are covering the topic of supers in eyewitness testimony to some degree, because it appears that in the US and Australia there has been for quite a few years been a quite strident and ideological movement that has critiqued the value of eyewitness testimony as legal evidence, as an excessive reaction to countless unsound convictions based on misunderstandings, over-confidence and outright abuse of procedures in relation to the use of eyewitness testimony in court cases. These excessive reactions from psychology researchers have simply argued against the value of eyewitness testimony, in ignorance of the fact that there is a large spectrum of ability in face memory, and supers can be valuable in crime investigation and potentially in testimony. If you’ve ever tried to discuss super-recognizers and their value in law enforcement with a member of this “memory is fallible” movement in cognitive psychology, it’s about as pointless as talking to a wall. Activism and science don’t work well together.
https://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight

 

True that skulls can be used to create recognizable faces

Wardrop, Ian and Neave, Richard I know that face. New Scientist. No 3101 November 26th 2016.
https://www.newscientist.com/topic/lastword/i-know-that-face/

 

The trouble with police, large photograph databases and face recognition technology

Hodson, Hal Police mass face recognition in the US will net innocent people. New Scientist. October 20th 2016.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2109887-police-mass-face-recognition-in-the-us-will-net-innocent-people/

United States Government Accountability Office Face Recognition Technology: FBI Should Better Ensure Privacy and Accuracy. May 2016.

http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/677098.pdf

Had you assumed that hiring human super-recognizers to perform face recognition tasks would be less effective, less accurate and more open to bias than using technology? Think again.

Can you spot a sex offender or a terrorist just by looking at their face?

Adee, Sally Controversial software claims to tell personality from your face. New Scientist. May 27th 2016.

Similar story also in print: Issue 3076. June 4th 2016.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2090656-controversial-software-claims-to-tell-personality-from-your-face/

 

Wow, I just lost all respect for The Met

…which is a pity as the Metropolitan Police in London are apparently world leaders in the use of super-recognizers in law enforcement.

Coghlan, Andy Expert witness on “shaken baby syndrome” faces misconduct charge. New Scientist. October 6th 2015, amended October 7th 2015.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28291-expert-witness-on-shaken-baby-syndrome-faces-misconduct-charge/

 

Will a super-recognizer identify the British man who murdered American journalist James Foley?

A number of names have been put forward by the press:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/11049953/Net-closes-on-Jihadi-John-as-London-pair-probed.html

The value of CCTV questioned in Queensland

The value of CCTV in preventing crime has been questioned in Queensland following another tragic murder of a young person, which resonates with concerns about CCTV that I’ve aired at this blog in the past. CCTV might be a valuable tool in solving crimes, but everyone would much prefer that crimes be prevented or at least intercepted in a timely manner by police. The full video of this story will probably appear in a day or two at the 7.30 website.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-10/this-week-on-730-queensland/5382066?section=qld

Is face recognition (in conjunction with other forms of identification) once again the key to solving a crime mystery?

“I started to read about the shearers’ strike and I made a discovery. I found a photograph of the Strike Committee and there, standing up, in the middle is a person that I know was Joe Quinn. At this stage, he was calling himself Payne but I know him and recognise him as Joe Quinn from Gatton. I was so surprised to see that he was quite an influential member of the strike committee. And I remembered evidence that had been disregarded that Michael had a confrontation with a union official in a barber shop in north west Queensland and I wondered if the confrontation had been with this man, Joe Quinn.” – STEPHANIE BENNETT

This is a transcript from a story on the current affairs TV series Australian Story about a lady by the name of Stephanie Bennett who has spent years trying to solve the mystery of the horrific and vile Gatton murders. Bennett’s theory is that Quinn was the ringleader in the murders in company with others. I find her argument believable. Here are some more quotes from the transcript of the report:

“So Mum believes that Joe Quinn had been using aliases for years to evade the law. But he had a tattoo, he had some missing fingers, and he’d had a gunshot accident to the groin some years ago.” – ANGELA O’MALIA

“And under the name Adams, he is described as having one tattoo on his left forearm…” – STEPHANIE BENNETT

My knowledge of critical thinking and fallacies in decision-making tells me that questions need to be asked about this kind of evidence. Was the tattoo an exact match, visually or by description? How common was it for men at the time to have a tattoo on the left forearm, missing fingers or a gunshot wound to the groin? One needs to always consider base rates within the relevant population before deciding that some characteristic is unusual or abnormal or significant in some way. One must also ask how reliable was Bennett’s visual recognition of Quinn in the photo. But I guess such doubts might be unnecessary given the info that Quinn lost his job and was sent to jail for past crimes. One can only assume that this conviction was based on good evidence available at the time.

This interesting mystery is one of countless demonstrations of the importance of excellent face memory ability in solving crimes and identifying suspects, and it also demonstrates why we should never discourage the habit of criminal types to adorn their bodies with tattoos. In doing this they give a gift to police and detectives who are trying to identify persons of interest. Faces and tattoos are highly visible, permanent and distinctive features that can be used to identify people who are suspected of committing crimes. It is a wonder and a paradox that the section of society which has the most to lose from having a tattoo is the one that appears to have the most enthusiasm for getting them.

The story of this Australian murder mystery is also a reminder that criminals and psychopaths can and often do have charismatic and popular personalities. Regardless of whether or not Quinn was involved in the murders, it appears that he had been a leader in one of Australia’s most important industrial disputes, but also had a criminal past and a habit of using false names, and his dark past eventually caught up with him resulting in some time in prison. There is a popular image of the criminal psychopaths as loners, but it is more often the case that they are leaders.

Australian Story. When Blood Runs Cold – Transcript: Monday, 17 June , 2013. http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2012/s3783411.htm